Notre Dame professor proposes village plan for Syrian refugees


Some 800,000 refugees have swarmed to Europe this year -- fleeing the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. An associate professor at Notre Dame has proposed a project to help manage the refugee crisis and this involves housing for those refugees.

When Notre Dame's Richard Economakis, associate professor of architecture, looked at a photo from the 1920s of thousands of Greek refugees fleeing to Syria, he had a realization.

"I suddenly realized that maybe it's time for Greeks to give back to Syria what Syria gave so many Greeks," said Economakis.

He came up with a plan to house refugees when they come to Europe. A village would be arranged in pinwheel fashion around a central square. It would include 800 units that could accommodate ten people each.

"Offering a way to bring in and provide for these people and take them off the streets and the fields and treat them humanely, " Economakis said, "This will also relieve the pressures on the local communities."

The temporary refugee villages would be in Greece. While most refugees continue to other countries in Europe, most are required to wait two or more weeks until their asylum requests are processed.

These refugee buildings will be made of mud bricks, which is similar to how the earlier buildings of Notre Dame were constructed. They're cheap and easily accessible

"Mud-brick is the oldest material that has been employed in the human art of construction. And the proof of it is long durability, the fact that there are structures built that have been in Egypt or Mesopotamia for thousands of years,"says Economaki's colleague and assistant professor at Notre Dame, Alessandro Pierattiani.

Economakis says these villages would only take a few weeks to construct. Refugees could help with workmanship. Structures could also be re-purposed. For Econonmakis, this project is an opportunity to give back.

"Syrians are human beings and this crisis is incredible. The refugee crisis is the biggest crisis since World War II," Economakis says.

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